As nobody probably expected a shootout between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New York Giants, here are five things, you can take from this 41-24 Giant victory.
Experience won out.
To say the game was a tale of two halves would be an understatement. New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning proved why he's won two Super Bowls when he put the team on his back and just kept chucking the ball, 51 times to be exact, which resulted in a career record 510 passing yards, three touchdowns and interceptions.
Josh Freeman has a long way to go from a project to a reliable leader. Today's game showed why. Manning could constantly distribute to the likes of Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz, who accounted for 378 of his 510 passing yards. Most of the time, Freeman just targeted Vincent Jackson, five times for 128 yards.
It was a great (offensive) game.
Normally you would expect a 41-34 contest from a Saints and Patriots game, not the Bucs and Giants, but it got interesting at the end when Eli really started to pour it on, methodically destroying the Buccaneer secondary after they had its way with him in the first half.
The Bucs proved they can hang with the big boys. Maybe that can translate similarly to the 10-6 season, two years ago. Whether or not Freeman can build a chemistry with his receivers down the line similarly to how Manning had with his is another story.
Not time to press the panic button, yet.
It may have been a critical coaching decision, but no one really could have predicted how badly the Buccaneer secondary would be gassed by Giants receivers. You can't really blame Greg Schiano for trying to rely on his defense to try to close out the game.
Unfortunately, perhaps someone forgot to tell Schiano of another Manning who prior to him, led his team down from a double-digit deficit to lead his team to victory in Peyton Manning in 2003 against the very same Bucs on a certain Monday night contest.
While you can credit Manning for getting the gusto to lead his team enough past the Bucs, you have to wonder given the Giants tough schedule, how much they can withstand all of this. There are a number of critics stating that if they did lose this game that it would mean the season.
I'm not so sure those worries should be put to rest if Eli's decision making could still put the Giants at risk, because most other elite teams (i.e.: the Packers, Patriots, etc.) would have held on.
As for the Bucs, Schiano might have to reevaluate his conservative playcalling and perhaps maybe let Josh be Josh and see where it goes. A few sputtered drives might have cost him the game given how much Manning had his way with the Buccaneer secondary as the game plodded along.
One particular telling stat for the game is the number of plays ran. The Giants ran 76 plays while the Bucs only had 52. If the Bucs had about ten more plays, we could be talking about an upset instead.
A Moral victory
The Bucs can hang their heads knowing that they can compete with every team they face. It's Schiano's first year and systemically everything is new. Whether or not the players can pick up their respective system will be telling in the future.
The defense has shown flashes of brilliance and the offense can get going if Freeman does more to look off of Jackson. Mike Williams has two touchdowns already as a number two receiver. Maybe Freeman could have benefitted more from looking over to tight end Dallas Clark more than the few times late in the game.
The coming weeks will tell what role the Bucs can play if they're serious or not.
It's only week 2, people!
I realize how much stat hounds people are and if the last decade of the playoffs proved anything is that anything can happen. Anyone can still win the Super Bowl, whether you're 2-0, 1-1, or even 0-2. The New York Giants won as a sixth seed. The Pittsburgh Steelers won as a fifth seed Both are now 1-1 and play the numbers as much as you like, it's about where you end up at the end.
You can be sure right now, the Giants will not look past the Panthers just as the Bucs will not look past the Cowboys.
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